In modern times, diversity management has been brought to the forefront of organisational issues due to factors such as globalisation and the emerging cultural and individual differences that emerge as a result of this diverse world. The purpose of this paper will be to explore the topic of diversity as it relates to the workplace by discussing perspectives from union groups and HRM practitioners and to investigate the barriers to workplace diversity. Through the discussion, the advantages of diversity will be discussed with an emphasis on the implications for the HR function of the organisation. Overview
Workplace diversity relates to the presence of differences among members of the workforce (D’Netto & Sohal, 1999). By creating a diverse workforce organisations are able to tap the ideas, creativity, and potential contributions inherent in a diverse workforce (Aghazadeh, 2004). Diversity in the workplace includes culture, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, physical abilities, social class, age, socio-economic status, and religion (Sadri & Tran, 2002). These individual characteristics shape an individual’s perception about their environment and how they communicate (Kramar, 1998). Organisations can approach diversity is three differing ways: affirmative action, valuing diversity and managing diversity. Affirmative action attempts to monitor and control diversity in an organisation and in doing so senior management can affect the hiring and promotion of individuals (Sadri & Tran, 2002.) An organisation assumes new individuals or groups will adapt to the norms of the organisation, and will not resist due to fears of reverse discrimination (Sadri and Tran, 2002). Valuing diversity can allow an organisation can focus of the benefits of the differences, therefore developing an environment where all individuals are valued and accepted (Sadri & Tran, 2002). Those members who feel valued to their organisation tend to be harder working, more involved and innovative (Agahazadeh, 2004). Valuing Diversity can affect employees’ attitudes positively, however resistance can be experienced due to a fear of change and individuals discomfort with differences (Sadri & Tran, 2002.) Finally, managing diversity is when organisations build specific skills and create policies which obtain the best values of each employee, which will create new ways of working together (Sadri & Tran, 2002). It will provide an opportunity for organisations to manage a workforce which emphasises both organisational and individual performance, whilst still acknowledging individual needs (Kramar, 1998). Although diversity has always existed in organisations, individuals tend to repress their diversity in order to conform to the norms of the organisation and fit into the stereotype of the typical employee (Kramar, 1998). Mismanagement of diversity as a result of unfavourable treatment can inhibit employees working abilities and motivation, which can lead to a lowered job performance (Aghazadeh, 2004). If an environment works well for employees, diversity will work against the organisation, hence the lack of an enabling environment (Kramar, 1998). These fundamental components of workplace diversity can be further viewed through the varying perspectives of union groups, HRM professionals and organisations. PERSPECTIVES AND RATIONALES ON WORKPLACE DIVERSITY
From a union perspective
Historically the role of unions concentrated mainly on the fight for higher wages, shorter hours and better working conditions. However in recent years a shift has occurred to fighting rights for a diverse workforce (Barrile & Cameron, 2004). Management aims to maximise the contribution of all staff to work towards organisational objectives through forming guiding teams for diversity, training to improve languages and celebrating success. Unions however, implement diversity differently (Barrile & Cameron, 2004).
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